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Navigating Teen Dating Relationships and Human Trafficking Risks

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In 1996, the talk around my 9th grade homeroom was how everyone watched No One Would Tell the night before, and how now we all became experts in teen domestic violence. We cringed and gasped as that nerdy guy from The Wonder Years put on a letter jacket and smacked around the oldest sister from Full House, and pledged we’d never let that happen to one of OUR friends.

And we didn’t.

I mean, I’m guessing we didn’t. For those whose eyes haven’t been burned by the late piece of tape, the signs we were conditioned to look for were so glaringly obvious: black eyes, walking up to intense conversations where the guy is pointing aggressively in her face, catching him shaking her shoulders, driving by as he was forcing her to third base in the back of his teal Camaro, et al. I mean, if we didn’t witness any of that, then…

So it came as a bit of a surprise when my girl Heidi Wysocki with hit me up last week to let me know that their newest class, Navigating Teen Relationships was rolling out, and I learned how little (ok NOT AT ALL) I knew about how to combat this issue in the 21st century.

And it certainly blew my mind when I learned it discussed not just physically abusive relationships, but the grave and overwhelming threat of teen human trafficking.

Do I have the attention of the class?

Beyond Romantic Relationships

The first thing to understand is that teen abuse is not simply limited to violence in a romantic relationship. Heidi tells me,

In the last decade, human trafficking has exploded, especially in the DFW area. Since 2011 when Dallas hosted the Super Bowl, it increased dramatically, and Texas currently ranks as the #2 in the nation for just reported cases.

Reported. Cases.

And to be clear, human trafficking is not simply hauling foreign women over borders in burlap sacks. It’s the coercive subjugation of a victim to be groomed for illegal, and often, deadly purposes.

Recently, my naiveté got a swift kick to the gut, when just last week, I read about this case.

This woman isn’t a mid-40’s greasy man with a Russian accent the movies tell us a predator is supposed to look like – she’s an everyday, regular looking person hiding in plain sight. And to be fair, in hindsight, the signs were all there, but we didn’t know how to look for them.

Until now.

Get Educated

Dr. Abel Tomatis, PhD, at right

First Defense Solutions collaborated with noted psychologist, Dr. Abel Tomatis, PhD, and contacts with the NYPD Special Victims Unit to create the most comprehensive, engaging, and relevant program possible.

The three hour class covers what can only be described as critical mass:

  • Defining healthy and unhealthy relationships
  • Boundaries
  • Signs of grooming and manipulation techniques that predators use
  • The myth of ‘mutual abuse’ – the balance and imbalance of power
  • Understanding the nuances of communication, what is said is not always what people mean
  • Desensitization
  • Grooming techniques for dating abuse
  • Manipulation in dating
  • Social media and online relationships
  • How to talk to your friends who may be victims OR friends who may be perpetrating the behavior
  • How to offer, and ASK, for help

And those are only a few highlights of this three hour course.

#THATSNOTLOVE

February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month and is a perfect time to begin having these conversations with our peers, students, and young children.

If I haven’t already convinced (scared the ever living expletive out of) you, I invite you to watch this video here: with your child, and begin this imperative dialogue.

Navigating Teen Relationships is available soon – register now via this link for only $25 AND you can bring your child for free. Appropriate for 5th grade and up.

This, and Anatomy of Fear are both are available to all schools, including Frisco ISD, charter and private schools. All school-based courses include a free workshop for parents and students.

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